I turn twenty in an hour and a half, and the English major within me wants to explain why I write this blog. In addition to my thoughts on society, books, and pop, this site has always served as a space for me to reflect on my personal life, as you can see from how the traumatic events of this past semester show themselves within my recent writing. Though this thesis might change, I will make it clear, as of today: I write this blog so that it can serve as a place of compassion, for myself and for others. A quick definition of “self-compassion,” provided by professor and researcher Kristin Neff:
As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate. – Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.
Two themes run throughout my life: the depth of my emotions and the struggles I have encountered. I experienced horrible abuse as a child and I also developed an eating disorder in early adolescence. Because of my identity as an Asian-American, my maleness, my natural tendency to put others before myself, and a variety of other factors, I often faced a lot of stigma when trying to reach out and would thus repress my feelings and my troubles. This blog serves as a testament to my hardship, and it proves that the obstacles I have faced do not define me – because I have reached out for help and have worked on improving my health, I maintain a consistent spot on Dean’s List, multiple extra-curricular activities centered on mental health, two jobs, and more. I recognize that many people have suffered worse than me and that many others have achieved more than me, however, I hope that the journey I document here shows others that the pain they experience – the pain that you experience – is real. It is real, and it does not define you.
I have also learned that pain acts as a feeling, and you cannot control your feelings, no matter how irrational they may seem or how hard you try. Several years ago I felt a constant need for thinness, even when I could see each of my ribs without sucking in my stomach, even when the scale spat out a number that made clear that I was underweight. Within this past year, I have felt a pervasive isolation from others, in part because of the abuse and neglect I dealt with as a child: even with close friends and family by my side, even with all of the wonderful support I receive on this blog, even with my solid college community, I have felt separated, alone. But this blog proves that those feelings will pass, because so many of my old posts reek of hurt, of perfectionism, of a loss of control – and after accepting the validity of those emotions, they have passed. With time the loneliness that struck me so often this past semester will stop hurting me so much, and I know now that I can experience the deep depths of my emotions and use them to my advantage without letting them consume me. My point: the pain you feel will pass, too. Trust me. It stems from the human condition, from something we all share, as simplistic and cliche as that sounds.
Honoring your pain – or any emotion you experience – and finding feasible coping mechanisms requires so much strength, and I hope my writing can help you find your own strength. I hope my words can inspire you to think and to share your own journey if you want, either through a comment, on your own blog, or in a journal. I hope my story can motivate you to ease your own suffering, through calling a hotline, seeking a therapist, reaching out to those closest to you, practicing mindfulness, and more. I hope my transparency tells you not to give up, even when friends fail you, even when you fail yourself, because there will always, always be someone, or something, to help you. I hope my writing proves that you are not alone. I hope my writing gives you hope.
As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sit on the soft cover of the bed in my hotel room, and I think about how meaningful it feels to have finished two years of college – to have gotten that much closer to becoming a psychologist, a career in which I can spend every day of my life understanding others through research and through practice. Thank you to those who have supported me along this journey; I appreciate your words so, so much. Just as a reminder, you can also get updates from me on Goodreads and Twitter (and Facebook, if you send me a direct message). I hope to hear from you soon.